Owen Pallett Explains The Genius Of Lady Gaga Using Music Theory

By Miles Bowe / April 1, 2014

Now on his third in a series of articles examining the brilliant music theory behind ubiquitous pop hits, Owen Pallett might just have a brilliant recurring column in the works. Alas, Pallett says this latest installment will be his last. Beginning with an article analyzing through music theory the brilliance of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” he then turned that piece’s brief aside about Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” into an even better article. Now he takes on Lady Gaga and examines her genius as he sees it. Though the article focuses on “Bad Romance” in particular, a big part of Pallett’s argument addresses complaints that Gaga’s songs all sound pretty much the same. He not only agrees with that but reinforces it by examining the similar structures of her songs. Then (and this is where it gets really good) he argues that the uniformity (or “monomania” as Pallett elegantly puts it) is a big part of why her music is genius.

Some poppets may take this consistency of tone to be indicative of a “lack of creativity” on Gaga’s end. Me, I see it as strong branding. Yes, these seven singles are mechanically indistinguishable, but I hear L-A-D-Y on the left, G-A-G-A on the right, knuckles in your face, your inner ear is branded. Gaga is a fighter, not a lover.

I like this monomania, too, as it definitively establishes Gaga’s own voice as a songwriter. She works with co-writers, as do most pop singer-songwriters, but her own writing voice is indelible. I respect performing artists and songwriters equally, but I extend extra good will to those artists who take on both roles. This is not because of any desire for “authenticity of authorship,” but because I, as an audience member, like superheroes.

Read the whole article via Slate. And if that’s not enough to make you love Pallett, be sure to hear some of the incredible music he’s been putting out so far this year in anticipation of his upcoming album In Conflict.

In Conflict is out 5/13 via Domino.